4. Welcome.


Part 4 of the Spotlight series "Membership is Passing" 
How are you at deciphering codes?
Can you read the hidden message by cracking this one?
Once you've broken the ice, get into the idea of this Spotlight with the another question, this one about unlocking doors. Use the clip below for this.
(And welcome, by the way! It's great that you're here!)
Hopefully that makes enough sense to get you started.

Pray this prayer to get into it:
You have prepared a place for
every person because you are generous.
Help us to hear your invitation to it
and feel the joy of being truly welcomed
by one who cares for us.

Welcome Perspective: Welcoming is the privilege of those who are already inside.
God offers belonging. It's not the same thing, exactly, as membership.

Listen to these words, spoken by Jesus to his disciple, John. They are addressed to a group of Christians who know that they have a place in God's family but are tired of living in a world that tries to convince them that they don't.

Revelation 3:7-12
7 “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.
11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name.

A key that opens a door.
Acknowledgment that they are loved.
A crown.
A pillar in the temple.
God's name, written on them.
"The New Jerusalem," written on them.
Christ's name, written on them.

The passage positively drips with belonging. 
But let's make sure we have a sense of what belonging really is, and what it isn't.
Reflect on this together, answering any of the following questions that are helpful.
  • Do you experience the tension between individuality and belonging? 
  • Have you had labels that were hard to shake? 
  • When have you experienced a new chance to listen? 
  • Do you feel that God wants you to get to know yourself? 

Once you've talked a bit about those questions, read these words of Jesus about knowing and being known: 

Mark 12:28-34
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
Worship Perspective: Respond to God's love: Give grace to yourself and give grace to your neighbor.
Get into the Learn section of this Spotlight by listening to and thinking about the song "Two Kinds" by the Arcadian Wild. This clever songs describes two disagreeing sides who can't get along, and as it describes them, the song shows the foolishness of their tribalism and division.

One particularly clever lyrical trick to pay attention to: In two of the choruses, the songwriters combined two phrases that used the same word. For example, they write, "Foolishly burning the bridge we are standing on top of the world..." The word on is one word doing two things, and in doing so, it doesn't exactly make sense - just like the two kinds of people are truly one people trying to do two things and making no sense. 
Jesus was aware of the false distinctions that people draw between one another. Use the presentation below to explore how he reacted to it.
Learn Perspective: Christ’s spirit of welcome should become our signature characteristic.
Prepare to make the most of your Gather event. 
In your event, you'll be immersed in a foreign culture as a way of growing your appreciation for the diverse people God has made and for the breadth of his love and understanding. Discuss the questions below to prepare yourselves to gain from the event.
  1. Explore Your Personal Preconceptions:
    • Reflect on any preconceptions or stereotypes you might have about the culture you'll be immersed in. Where do you think these ideas came from, and how open are you to challenging them?
  2. Understand Cultural Diversity as God's Design:
    • How do you see the diversity of cultures and peoples around the world as a reflection of God’s creativity and love? 
    • Can you think of biblical passages that celebrate diversity?
  3. Notice the Role of Empathy in Appreciation:
    • Empathy is often a bridge to understanding and appreciation. Can you share a time when empathizing with someone from a different background than yours changed your perspective?
  4. Anticipate Growth:
    • In what ways do you hope this immersive experience will grow your appreciation for the big, wide love of God for all kinds of people? How might this change the way you interact with cultures or perspectives foreign to your own?

Serve Perspective: Human beings will always underestimate the breadth of God's love.

Prayer Requests

Prayer Activity
  • Take turns sharing personal requests and praying for them.
  • Then, spend time in silent prayer, thanking God for the open arms he has for you. 
Close your time together by listening and meditating along with the song A Place for You.
Farewell Perspective: Once membership has passed, it will be replaced by a warm “welcome home!”

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